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E308: 'Open Party' system to encourage grouping in Warhammer Online

Michael Zenke
Our epic-level talk with Josh Drescher and Adam Gershowitz delved into a number of interesting topics. Warhammer Online is essentially feature complete, they said, and will offer players a level of UI customization we haven't seen in most previous MMOs. They also, interestingly, are working to take care of the looking for group problem with a new tactic: the Open Party. We've already learned how they plan to encourage players to collaborate through Public Quests, but this sounds like it's taking the boundary of solo and group play and stretching it to the breaking point ...

Adam: Another major feature we wanted to make sure to mention was the Open Party system. It just went into the Beta in the last couple of weeks. The Open Party system is an extension of the Looking For Group system. We have a fully fleshed out LFG system, but the Open Party system is really kind of an easier, casual way to put a group together. What the Open Party does is, say I come into the game and I'm interesting in forming a group. I go ahead and start the system, and it puts me into a party of one. It immediately updates me on the UI to be available for other players. As players are running around the world, they're going to get notification that there are Open Parties with slots in the area. On our Beta server right now, in most areas, there's anywhere from four to something like eighteen Open Parties for any given area. When you look on the UI you'll see it shows how many people are in a group, as well as the exact distance you are from the party.

That's "as the crow flies", so you may have to do some cliff-jumping to get there, but we've found it's pretty accurate. That's one thing about the system, too - people tell you they're looking for a group, they don't tell you where they are - this tells the exact location from this exact moment. It also tells you what you're 'in'. Am I in a PQ, am I in a Scenario, what Chapter am I in? Am I questing or am I not? It actually shows what the players are doing right now, not what they say they're doing. Even if someone says they're going to go raid the opposing city, really they're in Altdorf looking for more people. You join the group and they say "yeah, we're going to need five more people." This actually shows you everything in your close proximity. It encourages people when they enter a PQ region to pop it open and see what parties are available.